7 Keys to a Sensational Super Bowl Ad

January 24, 2005

Are you ready? Are you ready? Are you ready for some serious advertising! Yes, it’s that time again. Sunday, February 6th will be the one glorious day of the year when the entire world sits in front of their television sets and can’t wait to watch their television commercials.

Every other day we hate advertising. We grumble when the ads interrupt our favorite CSI episode; or we quickly reach for the TiVo remote to zip pass the ads and get back to cutie Vincent D’Onofrio on Law & Order; or we use the time to rush to the bathroom or get a snack; or as my 2 year old does, we scream and cry until the PBS fundraiser commercial is over and Barney returns.

Super Bowl Sunday is the most magnificent day in all of advertising (as well as in all of sports.) It’s the day when every ad agency executive and brand manager pats themselves on the back and dreams of all the people being mesmerized by their brilliant creativity.

The question is: Do Super Bowl ads really pay off? The answer is yes and no. There is no doubt that the enormous attention and PR buzz from a successful Super Bowl spot can be helpful. But at a cost of $2.4 million for 30 seconds, is it worth it? For a select few, yes. For most of the others, a definite no.

Advertising can be a very effective medium. If it is used correctly. Advertising’s main problem is that it lacks credibility. You don’t take at face value what is said in an advertisement because it is a self-serving message from the advertiser.

Like if I told you I was the brightest branding mind in the business, the claim would not be credible. But if Business 2.0 names me a marketing guru of the year, that would be credible. (Which they did.)

Someone else touting your brand is the most credible form of communications. Which is why PR (or third-party endorsement) is what builds brands.

What maintains brands is advertising. Advertising is effective only when it is used to reinforce a position already established in the mind of the consumer. Advertising is the cheerleader for your brand. Getting your consumers excited and reminding them to buy.

The biggest mistake Super Bowl advertisers make is to use their ads to launch a new brand. Any ad that makes a viewer think or remember too much is not a good idea. Yet you see it year after year, companies unveiling new brand and concepts. It is especially sad when a start-up blows all of its money on a Super Bowl spot, fails to build the brand and then goes out of business. You saw this happen to many dot-coms a few years back.

The biggest winners on Super Bowl Sunday are the established brands, the ones that combine creativity along with a reinforcement of the brand’s core strength and have a product that is relevant to the game. Which is why it’s not surprising that Budweiser is the king of the game year after year.

So for those of you tempted to jump into the game and advertise, here are my suggestions:

The 7 Keys to a Sensational Super Bowl Sunday Ad:

 1. Don’t launch a new product.

  2. If your major competitor is advertising, don’t advertise.

  3. Be funny, but don’t forget the brand’s message.

  4. Create new ads for the game; running last year’s campaign won’t cut it.

  5. Try to advertise year after year. Consistency is important.

  6. If your brand has no link to fun, football and frat guys, forget it.

  7. If no one has ever heard of your brand, don’t advertise.

In the days ahead I will be following the hoopla and talking more about the ads we expect to see during this year’s game.